Headshot of Pauline James.

Pauline James never envisioned herself as an entrepreneur. She worked her way up and across through various roles through her career and before launching Anchor HR she was leading employee and labour relations for a large national company. With her constant need to continually learn and be challenged by her work, she couldn’t picture herself continuing to do the same role for the rest of her career.

What excited her about starting her own business was bringing great people practices to smaller and mid-sized companies and helping them build their companies. She knew she wanted to continue to provide full human resource services which would mean having a team, toolkits and materials ready for when she launched. This involved a lot of planning and saving before she finally took the leap to create Anchor HR, a human resources company.

Pauline was an expert at Futurpreneur Canada’s Expert Exchange recently hosted in Toronto and we wanted to catch up with her to chat about hiring the best talent for your business. Here’s what she had to say…

Hiring can be one of the toughest challenges for an entrepreneur. How do you suggest entrepreneurs find the perfect fit for their business?

Before you begin interviewing, be clear on the challenges you will need your new talented team member to solve. This is not only the urgent need you want their help with, but also what you will need from them in the mid and longer term. How will this role evolve, with their input and ingenuity, to provide ongoing value?

Determine how you will objectively assess their skills, knowledge, and fit for your organization. The more you prepare, the better you will be at overcoming any ‘likeability’ or ‘you are just like me’ bias that affects all of us.

Do you have the expertise to assess their depth of knowledge? If so, assess their expertise by showing a genuine interest and having a detailed discussion about their day to day work in previous roles. Is there a process or skills test that can assess their skills? Be honest with yourself about whether you are able to effectively assess their knowledge and skill set. If not, it is well worth investing in having external support in this regard.

You will also want someone who is excited and not deterred by the challenges faced in your mighty and growing company. This means having a candid discussion about the challenges this person will face. Being part of a small and growing team, without much structure, is not for everyone. Someone who is internally motivated and excited by their part in the bigger puzzle and keep pushing forward to find solutions when the going gets tough.

Ensure every conversation is a dialogue. The candidate’s decision to join your team is just as important as yours; it is important it is well informed. Include strong team members in the selection process, when possible, to assist you in making the best choice. This will also allow the candidate to also ask questions to a potential peer about your work environment.

How do you know when it’s the right time to hire? Or should I outsource work/hire freelancers? What’s best?

The decision to hire an employee is significant and comes with increased obligations from a legal and financial perspective.

If your cash flow permits, and there is steady work that is core to your organization’s deliverables, you may well want to bring this in-house.

Build the business case for hiring, as thoughtfully as you would for any other major investment. Carefully consider if the work is truly long term. Is it really an ongoing role, or could it be project work? Could the work be reduced or resolved with improvements in processes?

If the work is tangential and/or intermittent? Do you have the expertise to oversee this work effectively? If the work is not core to your business or irregular, you may pay a premium for access to these services, but this is still often less expensive and risky in the midterm than hiring.

How do you know when it’s the right time to let someone go?

This is understandably a difficult decision and threshold to assess.

We want to ensure we have given someone every opportunity to succeed. Our teams expect this too, otherwise any sense of trust and security of working with us is eroded.

The critical assessment is whether the person can and will improve. To satisfy this, it is important you have trained the person properly and explained what success looks like in the role. Too often we focus on what the person is doing wrong, rather than on what we need them to do. We sometimes, erroneously, fall into ‘that’s just the way they are’ and do not provide enough coaching. Research has shown that people can learn and improve over their lifetime, when they are committed to learning and have support.

I have heard from a number of owners that they waited far too long to make this decision on the first person they terminated. They also learned, to their surprise, that when a poor performer or toxic individual was let go, after being given a fair chance, the morale on their team actually improved.

If you want to terminate ‘for cause’, without owing termination or severance pay, there is high threshold of evidence required to establish multiple warnings and opportunities to improve have been provided. This is a particularly difficult bar to meet when the issue is performance. Most employment litigation is tied to termination and you are often best to seek guidance before proceeding. One of the most important ways to reduce risk is by having an employment contract that stipulates what would be owed to an employee, should their employment be terminated.

What is one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs when it comes to hiring for a small business?

If we want to grow our business, find the gaps, plug the holes and find new and better ways of delivering products or service, we need to hire people who are different from us. Research is continuing to show that diverse teams outperform more homogenous ones. The smaller the team, I would suggest, the more important this principle is.

I am going to sneak in one other tidbit: it is also equally important that efforts are made to ensure our talented employees get how important they are and feel they are invested in as individuals. The costs of losing someone great is just as impactful, if not more so, as a bad hire.

I hear many owners lament the difficulty of bringing on new talent, but do not also focus on retaining the talent they have. When the cost of replacing someone is estimated to be 1.5x their salary, let alone the disruption, the business case writes itself.

Grab a coffee and write your team some personal thank-you notes today! Put a note in your calendar to take 15 minutes each week to go out of your way to thank one employee for something they likely did not even realize you noticed.

You can learn more about Pauline and Anchor HR by clicking here.

Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada